When You Market Your Event, Is Your Event Marketing You?

The term “Event Marketing” actually means two things. The way we email folks normally use it means “the act of marketing our events.” In this construction “marketing” modifies “events.”

But the other way “Event Marketing” is used switched the modifier and modified, where “event” is a type or channel used for marketing activity. For example, “Red Bull shifted more of its budget away from television and into event marketing.” Used this way, the event is the marketing.

That’s worth thinking about. For those of us focused on putting butts in seats, the marketing is the means and the event is the end. But for other marketers, it’s the event that is the means and the marketing that is the end. The two are not mutually exclusive. Your event generates a powerful brand impression for your organization, beginning with the way it is promoted to prospective attendees, right through to the post-show communications to attendees and other constituents.

As you market your event, be mindful of how your event also markets you:

Your organization, Live! We talk about online engagement and touch points and creating a dialogue with our customers and members. Technology goes a long way towards maintaining connections, but events are truly immersive environments. It is at events that the connections we maintain through email and social channels are forged and strengthened in the first place. It’s worth remembering this as you market your event. On the one hand, you want to create consistency between the tone of your communications and the environment at the show. But knowing what a powerful experience an in-person event can be, event marketers can promote the experience as an asset. Whatever it is that makes your organization unique will be front and center at your event. You can tell your prospective attendees that if they like what your company stands for, they’ll love this show.

The experience is proprietary; the content is not. Most organizations market their events to their entire house list. Most people on the house list do not go to each event. That means that the majority of your event-specific messaging is reaching an audience who will not actually experience the event. Does that mean much of your effort is wasted? Not at all. In fact, if these people are not attending the event, the email contact they have with your organization is even more important to maintaining the connection. Recapping the event with email pointing to blog posts, tweets, presentations on video and slides to download is a standard practice, but is too often limited to the audience who did attend, as if the content at the show were proprietary and part of the price of admission. It’s the experience that is unique: share the content to whomever did not attend as well, to help maintain that connection with your non-attendees until the next show.

Events can be exclusive, but marketing them should be inclusive. It’s not uncommon for events to market with some FUD – using Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt to create a sense of anxiety in would-be attendees if they miss out on this must-attend show. Instead, I recommend event marketing that is more inclusive, since the messages will reach more people who do not attend than who will. Remember that your event marketing does more than just drive people to attend – it reflects your organization and has to serve as a proxy for your event’s immersive environment for the people who do not attend. For the people who do not respond, think of your emails as a texture in the background of your organization – subtle, persistent with a tone that is pleasing.